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Are Sleep Apnea & Sleep Seizure Connected?

Among sleep disorders, one of the most prominent disorders is sleep apnea. It is a partial or complete blockage of air going into the human body through nose while sleeping. It is mostly accompanied by some symptoms like daytime sleepiness or sleep deprivation.

On the other hand, sleep seizures are caused due to abnormal or sudden change in the behavior of brain due to increased activity in the brain nerves. Generally speaking, sleep apnea and seizures are connected.

Categorization of sleep apnea is given below:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: stopping breathing due to a physical blockage in the breathing channel
  • Central sleep apnea: This involves the nervous system. It occurs when the brain fails to send signal to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea: It’s a combination of obstruction and central sleep apnea.

Connection of Central Sleep Apnea and Seizures:

As described above, central sleep apnea can sometimes cause a disturbance in the brain activity. These abnormal connections between nerve endings and the brain can cause serious disturbance in the electrical activity and communication of brain with the other body parts. This disturbance in the end leads to the miscommunication of brain with the lung muscles. When the brain fails to send the signal, the phenomenon of apnea occurs. This process can be of different time durations. It can occur 5 to 25 times in an hour or can be even more. And basically any type of brain damage or error could theoretically have other consequences such as sleep seizures.

Connection of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Seizures:

The obstructive sleep apnea does not cause direct damage to the brain enough to trigger sleep seizures, but theoretically the cause is indirect. During sleep apnea we mentioned that the person stops breathing due to a physical obstacle or blockage in the breathing process. When this happens oxygen can not reach the brain and naturally the brain can not survive without oxygen. Such regular malnourishment of the brain could cause problems and consequently result in sleep seizures.

As Apnea May Cause Seizures Also Seizures Might Cause Apnea

On the other side, people suffering from epilepsy mostly have the problem of seizures. Abnormal brain functioning due to epilepsy can also causes seizures during sleep. According to one research I found, one third of epilepsy patients have sleep apnea.  It acts as a double-edged sword for the epilepsy patients. (Although this ratio or this number does seem very high)